Snow in the vines, 7 Jan 2017

My wife and I just got home from the North Carolina Winegrowers Association annual meeting in Winston-Salem. It was an informative couple of days. This was Dianne’s first NCWGA meeting, and it was my first in several years. There were lots of ad-hoc conversations with fellow growers and vintners; general sessions with great information about the state of the wine business, globally and a bit closer to home; specialized break-out sessions, with a wealth of growing, fermenting, and marketing knowledge transfer. You might find this part surprising: There was also a good bit of wine tasting happening too!

Photo courtesy @NCwineguys

And do you know what was reinforced for us during this weekend? There are really fantastic wines being made here in our beautiful corner of the world. We tasted some Vidal Blanc from three different NC wineries. The wines ranged from minerally and austere in one sample to lush and just a hint of sweet on the other end. And all three were wines you will want to try; it is definitely worth your time to seek out those producing a Vidal Blanc and give it a go.

We evaluated three Petit Verdot wines as well. And again, all three were balanced, dry, wonderful wines. We were privileged to be invited to share a bottle of Petit Verdot with our friends from St Paul during dinner Friday evening. Earlier in the week, we visited with our friends down at Overmountain Vineyards, and sampled several of their current offerings, including the 2015 Petit Verdot. If you have not tried it yet, you should. These recent experiences reinforce what we have seen in our own vineyard: Petit Verdot is a consistent producer in this area that ripens fruit very evenly, resists disease, and is a generally robust and healthy vine. My only regret is that we did not plant more of it.

2013 Mischief, our first Tempranillo.

We do not bottle a Petit Verdot, mainly because we only planted 100 vines initially. We consistently get 350 pounds of fruit from that block of the vineyard, enough to fill about 35% of a 265L barrel, so we have to blend it with something else, and in some years, multiple something-elses. We added another 100 vines in 2015, filling up the little remaining space we had in that block, so beginning with the 2017 harvest, I fully expect 700 pounds. It still is not quite enough for a full barrel, but maybe we can buy another 300 pounds from another grower to make our first barrel of 100% Petit Verdot.

We received label approval last week on the 2013 Mischief, and the labels are at the printer this week. We look forward to sharing a bit of Mischief with you very soon, but I just love this label so much, I could not wait to share it. Please forgive my obvious biases and immodesty, but Dianne does such a beautiful job creating our look.

Attending the NCWGA meeting encouraged me. And it challenged me. We can’t be complacent in our efforts, and we will not be. We have some neighbors elevating the state of the wine industry, and it is up to us to challenge them just as much as they challenge us. No sitting still, no saying good enough. I am very pleased with the quality of the wines we have made to this point, and I am excited at the prospect of continuing to grow great fruit and produce quality wines. As our vines get a little more age and I get a little more experience with the crush, we will find those incremental steps to continued improvement.

Do you know the best way to do a continuous process improvement in the wine industry? Taste more wine, talk to other growers and vintners, travel, and read. Someone in the tasting room asked me recently how I learned to make wine, and with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, I said, “YouTube.” It was meant as a joke, but then I decided to take a look. There are over 7M videos on YouTube that are returned with the search “how to make wine” And lest you think I failed to provide a serious answer, we talked about the home winemaking I had done, independent reading, and classes I took from the Surry Community College viticulture program. We are excited about making wine; excellent fruit, enthusiasm, and passion are the key pieces to making great wine. Cheers to 2017, and the opportunity to grow some great fruit.